What’s the worst that can happen? It’s probably not as bad as you think.
Insecurity kills more dreams than lack of talent does. Believing things like “I’ll never get promoted,” or, “I can’t compete with her” will turn self-doubt into a self-fulfilling prophecy. All of us feel self-doubt sometimes, no matter how confident we are. But, mentally strong people don’t let self-doubt prevent them from reaching their goals. Here’s how to keep self-doubt from holding you back.
- Embrace (a little) self-doubt.
Don’t worry about a little bit of self-doubt: Slight insecurity could actually bolster your performance. A 2010 study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that individuals who experienced a little self-doubt actually performed better compared with people who were completely confident in their skills. Other studies have found similar results.
So rather than waste energy worrying that your self-doubt is actually a sign from the universe that you’re about to fail, recognize that self-doubt can be helpful. Perhaps you’ll spend more time rehearsing or put in more effort when you’re aware that there’s a chance it might not go so smoothly.
- Question the evidence behind your thoughts.
When you encounter serious self-doubt, examine the truth behind it. Ask yourself, “What evidence do I have that I can’t do this?” Then ask, “What evidence do I have that I can do this?” Go ahead and write down your answers on a piece of a paper.
Looking at the facts can help you see things in a more realistic way. This exercise may not eliminate all of your self-doubt, but it can help reduce your insecurities to a more manageable level.
- Consider the worst-case scenario.
Self-doubt is fueled by catastrophic predictions: “I’m going to mess everything up.” “I’ll never get another chance.” When you find yourself guessing things will go poorly, ask, “What’s really the worst thing that could happen?” If you do make a mistake, would it really be that bad?
Remind yourself that even if things go terribly, it’s unlikely truly to be life altering. A few years from now, losing a game, stumbling over your lines, or failing to get a promotion probably won’t matter that much. Keeping things in proper perspective can help you calm your nerves.
- Monitor your emotions.
Your emotions play a major role in how you think and behave. Anxious feelings can fuel doubtful thoughts and impair your performance, unless you take steps to regulate your emotions.
Pay attention to how your emotions influence your choices. If your anxiety skyrockets, calm your body and your mind by taking deep breaths, going for a walk, or distracting yourself with mundane tasks. Don’t allow short-term discomfort to convince you to bail out, give up, or cave in.
- Focus on your present performance.
Whether you’re stepping on a stage or running out onto an athletic field, telling yourself, “I’m going to embarrass myself” will only distract you from your performance. Rather than allow your inner monologue to drag you down, stay focused on the present.
Before you take the giant leap into whatever you’re feeling doubtful about, give yourself a quick pep talk. Saying “All I can do is my best” will remind you that you don’t need to strive for perfection. With that reminder in mind, you’ll be better equipped to put your energy where it needs to be—on your performance.